-- Break Me Down gets shredded --

Stijn Daneels
Interview written and conducted by Stijn “Metal Shredder” Daneels.

Last September I was contacted by PressThis! Music PR to check out one of their clients, the Italian alternative rock band Break Me Down. They offered me to check out the band’s debut album “The Pond” as well as gave me the opportunity to interview Break Me Down’s guitarist and founding member Laerte Ungaro through Skype.

Eventually on October 3, 2019, while I was recovering from bronchitis, I called up Laerte to talk about Break Me Down’s origins, their inspirational life philosophy, the making of their new album “The Pond,” their memorable gig with Vinnie Moore and the band’s diverse professional lives.

BMS: Hello, Laerte! Glad to have you here on Skype! Tell me, how did Break Me Down begin?
Laerte: In 2017 I formed Break Me Down not long after my previous band, Love Frame, disbanded. Not only did I want to play live music once more but I also wanted to play heavier music compared to what I did earlier. Love Frame’s style didn’t fulfill my musical visions and with Break Me Down I aim for zero-compromise rock! Giuseppe, who played bass in my former band, joined me and now, after an EP and a few lineup changes we’ve released our debut album called “The Pond!”
BMS: Great! So, how did you come up with the name Break Me Down?
Laerte: The name comes from our philosophy of life. There’s so much in the world that tries to break you down. People may abuse the trust you give them, you may get sick or suffer a heavy car crash. Life may break you down, but you can always rebuild yourself.

BMS: That’s a very optimistic view of life. Now, in preparation of our interview today I watched the lyric video for “Your Game,” the first single of your new album “The Pond.” I feel it’s a powerful tune with commanding vocals and an energetic, call-to-action atmosphere. But what I particularly love about the video were its visuals. It features people from all walks of life, young and old, healthy and disabled, all fighting for a better future for themselves and the world.
Laerte: Thank you for those kind remarks! Indeed, our main goal with the song and accompanying video was to show that people aren’t as different as we tend to believe and that we can all leave a positive impact on the world and the people living in it. No matter your race, gender or religious orientation. “Your Game” is also a personal achievement for our new vocalist, Irene, because this was the first Break Me Down song she has written lyrics for.
BMS: Kudos to Irene and the rest of you folks for writing this awesome tune! I’m pumped to shred the rest of the material! Tell me something more about “The Pond.” It’s songwriting, production, etc.
Laerte: “The Pond” was quite a complicated album to make, particularly the mixing took much long and hard work. We took a critical look at our previous release, the EP “Resilience” which we released in early 2018, and decided to retain the melodic elements while making its successor more heavy metal than pop rock. There was also a lot of teamwork during all parts of the album’s production. During songwriting and recording we all gave each other feedback and suggestions to make the best out of what we were creating. Some of our songs were created out of a rhythm that our drummer, Fabio, came up with while others were build around a guitar riff, either from me or from my guitar shredding colleague Morris). From day one of Break Me Down’s existence, everyone in the band has an equal saying concerning the band’s songwriting and overall direction.

Laerte: Speaking of songwriting, I’ve written the lyrics for 8 songs of “The Pond” album while Irene has written 2 and Giuseppe 1. My lyrics are inspired by things that I directly or indirectly experience in my own life. For instance, the song “OCD” is inspired by a YouTube video I watched which was dedicated to people who suffer from the obsessive-compulsive disorder. And so the “OCD” tune puts attention to this mental illness as well. Another one of my songs inspired by contemporary topics is the title track of “The Pond” and its artwork. As you can see, it shows a girl looking at her reflection in a pond of water, with that pond functioning as mirror. It’s a visual metaphor to how nowadays we constantly judge each other and ourselves by our appearances (particularly on the internet).

BMS: Looks like you folks have become quite the family.
Laerte: Exactly! I believe that’s a pivotal element for a band’s longevity. After all, as a band, you’ll be spending a lot of time playing, working and living together so it’s important that you all get along as musicians and as people.
BMS: Indeed! And I must say that I’m quite impressed when I read your band’s resume! Despite Break Me Down’s mere 2-year existence you’ve already had the opportunity to open up for such high-tier acts like Lacuna Coil, Crazy Town and Vinnie Moore.
Laerte: Yeah! And for me the show we did with Vinnie Moore was a true dream come true as he was one of my earliest inspirations. And what’s more, when we had finished our sound check for that particular gig in our hometown of Milan Vinnie himself came out of the backstage to personally praise us for the music we had played during the check! It was a pure rush of joy and adrenaline for me and stands as my personal highlight for what I have currently achieved as part of Break Me Down.
BMS: I’m very grateful for you as well. You know, I’ve always believed that hard work and genuine passion eventually pays off and your encounter with and appraisal from Vinnie Moore, one of your biggest inspirations, is proof of that. Tell me, have you played in Belgium before?
Laerte: No, but I would love to play in your country some day, especially since I’m a huge lover of your Delirium beer!
BMS: Ah, that’s great! I live only about 30 km from the Delirium brewery in Melle (near Ghent)! And I often hear from foreign bands that they love playing in my little country because of the hospitality, professionalism, enthusiastic crowds and of course, the beers!
Laerte: I’m already looking forward to it! Currently we’re scheduling a little tour across Italy and next year we’ll have the resources and connections to go out and play gigs outside of Italy and of course we’ll be passing through Belgium as well!
BMS: Tell me, Laerte, what other things do you do in life aside from Break Me Down?
Laerte: I make a living as a taxi driver here in Milan!
BMS: Taxi driver in such a busy metropolis. That must be one hell of job. Literally!
Laerte: I simply remind myself that my job is to get my client from point A to point B without causing any accidents. No matter how much time it takes. I remain professional and polite towards all my passengers and keep myself calm no matter how often they yell at me to hurry up. My band colleagues make a living in such professions as a restaurant chef (our bassist Guiseppe), a truck driver (our other guitarist Morris), a gardener (our drummer Fabio) and a clothes manufacturer (our vocalist Irene).
BMS: That’s quite a variety of jobs and lifestyles.
Laerte: Indeed but we do manage to rehearse frequently and get along together very well. All it takes is plenty of good, honest communication and keeping each other motivated to get the best out of ourselves individually and as a whole, well-functioning band.
BMS: Damn straight! So, Laerte, is there anything else you wish to add before we close off this Skype shred?
Learte: It was great talking to you, my Belgian friend. I wish you a speedy recovery from your bronchitis and I hope to see you and your other Shredders soon!